(Photo credit: St. Augustine Record)
On June 7, 2005: United States District Court Chief Judge Henry Lee Adams, Jr. orders Rainbow flags to fly on our historic Bridge of Lions in honor of Gay Pride, a huge First Amendment victory against the City of St. Augustine, Florida. City officials changed the rules in 2004 to require flags would only fly for events open to everyone rooted in an historic event or place. I was proud to help encourage the plaintiffs, Rev. Ruth Jensen and her wife Elizabeth Forbell, and their lawyer, helping end three years of bigoted bumptiousness by corrupt City Manager WILLIAM BARRY HARRISS, who now works for Sheriff DAVID SHOAR, f/k/a "HOAR." From June 8-13, 2005, 42 Rainbow flags flew on our Bridge of Lions and seven flew on the Bayfront. On June 11, 2005, we celebrated Gay Pride Day on Cuna Street, with 1000 people, several flying improptu from Los Angeles and New York City (including Jason Relph, son of Wendy Relph, owner of Crucial Coffee and adjoining restaurant -- it was Jason's idea in 2003 to fly the Rainbow flags on our Bridge. People "came out" and spoke in favor of the flags in 2003 and 2004 (several were fired by homophobic employers) -- yet Commissioners did not even vote on it, so cowed were they by HARRISS. In 2005, we demanded that the Commissioners vote. They voted against us 3-2. Then Judge Adams reversed their unconstitutional vote within fourteen days.
How did we do it? With research at the St. Augustine Historical Society Library, establishing beyond peradventure the 1566 murder of a Gay French interpreter of the Guale Indian language, on orders of St. Augustine founder Pedro Menendez de Aviles, and other elements of St. Augustine's 11,000 years of GLBT history. (Menendez's brother in law wrote it all down so the facts were well-night irrefragable). Mirabile dictu: It only took 14 days from unconstiutional City Commission decision to landmark federal court decision. Judge Adams overturned the May 23, 2005 vote of City Commissioners to deny only one group the right to fly flags (then-Commissioners Susan Burk and Joseph Lester Boles, Jr. dissenting). Judge Adams asked insurance defense lawyer Susan Ederlyi about the Broward Yacht Company and Flagler College being allowed to fly their flags, with no claim to history at all, while the City indulged HARRISS's hatred. The decision was issued while the plaintiffs and supporters were still at lunch in a local sandwich shop in Jacksonville with lawyer Karen Doering from the National Lesbian Rights Center.
Our GLBT community's stunning, quick, epic, precedent-setting federal court victory was the first of some 66 of our local public interest victories (and counting), 2005-2017, here in Our Town. Incredibly, The St. Augustine Record, an alleged journalistic institution formerly owned or controlled by KKK members/sympathizer A.H. "HOPPY" TEBEUALT, editorially opposed our First Amendment victory. This same excuse for a newspaper supports developers and covers up for Sheriff DAVID SHOAR's misfeasance, malfeasance and nonfeasance on the Michelle O'Connell and Andrea Sheldon homicides.
On June 13, 2005, Commissioners voted 3-1 against allowing future flag-flying, (then-Commissioner Joseph Lester Boles, Jr. dissenting and Commissioner Burk absent, as was often the case). The seven flagpoles along our Bayfront were quietly removed, sua sponte, by hick hack HARRISS, never to be seen again.
We await St. Augustine City Commissioners, staff and the Florida Department of Transportation restoring flag-flying to our bridge, including the American flag, as many of us have requested over the years. The sight of flags flying on our Bridge is breathtaking, and must be restored. Now.
On June 12, 2016: 49 GLBT people were murdered by ISIS in an Orlando at the Pulse nightclub. The next day, Greater St. Augustine Republican Club President MARTIN MILLER goes on WFOY radio, owned by failed mayoral candidate KRIS PHLLIPS, to state that the 49 murder victims "got what they deserved," quoting the Bible. No apology. I filed an FCC complaint. Waiting.,,,
Meanwhile, President Trump has refused to declare June as Gay Pride month, reversing annual orders issued under Presidents Clinton and Obama. Bigotry is alive and well in the White House. Bigotry must be extirpated, as the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled in Gay Rights Coalition v. Georgetown University, 426 A.2d 1 (D.C. App. 1987), a case requiring my alma mater to respect equality.
I represented the plaintiff in Rinde v. Woodward & Lothrop in 1989-90, and wrote the first article on Gay marriage in an American Bar Association publication in 1991: more here.
Our GLBT alumni/ae group persuaded GU not to seek certiorari, over the strenuous objections of the late Edward Bennett Williams, major donor and major pain, ex-lawyer for James Riddle Hoffa and other corrupters. Thankfully, Georgetown did not get a U.S. Supreme Court decision with its name on it, like other malefactors forever rendered infamous in anti-discrimination law, like the City of Boca Raton and Bob Jones University)
If you see any flag at full-staff, please call the Governor's office (and me). Zero tolerance for bigotry in Our Town and our country.
Here's pertinent correspondence (updates later):